Part One: What is Your Expected Income?

This is one of those questions I have battled with since day one of employment or rather interviews since that’s where it all starts. How do I know how much I am worth based on how much work I do or the impact I think my work will bring to a company? Is it 10 shillings or it is 1000 shillings? Is there a value system or is it just based on your negation skills? What if you undervalue yourself or even overvalue yourself? As you continue growing up, these are the rational questions that linger in your mind. Every little decision you make is now somewhat under a microscope and you need to do your calculations right for things to fall into place.

Expected Income, Kawi Snippets
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I vividly recall when I went for my first interview ever, way back in 2009. I was just fresh out of campus and I barely had any experience, leave for my internship which I had during my 3-month holiday break from school. And in the course of the interview, my interviewer asked me the dreaded question “and what’s your expected income?” Dreaded because it was the first time I was being asked how much I want to earn. We had already has this conversations on salary with my parents and my older friends who had candidly expressed their thoughts on millennials and how we want to earn Kshs. 100,000 on the 1st job with zero experience, just like that. So of course I knew for sure I cannot be part of this millennial statistic being discussed in forums by grown-ups about how unrealistic our expectations were when it came to remuneration.

And so I said a confident “Kshs 40,000,” because I mean it was definitely less than the proverbial Kshs 100,000 and I couldn’t have gone to University for a whole 4 years to earn less. Especially when rumor had it that the average salary of someone who’d just left campus was at the very least Kshs 50,000. To say how I was humbled down to Kshs 20,000 was quite priceless. So my then interviewer and boss to be asks me what value I will bring into the organization, and how my contribution from day one will enable the institution to make enough money to pay me.

Remember, no experience! I was dumbfounded, but I also thought it was such a smart way to explain to me why that amount I had stated to begin with was a bit far-fetched, though in essence it wasn’t if I had answers. I almost felt like it made sense why I deserved what he was stating. So he tells me, “let’s start with the Kshs 20,000 and after 6 months we can pick up the salary discussion and based on my work, we can make an increment. Here’s the story on how the rest of the interview went.

And so I worked on until the 6th month as requested, by then I’d collected enough evidence on why I needed an increment. He must’ve felt a little pity on me because he added a Kshs 3,000 on top and so I was now earning Kshs 23,000. Good boss, huh? Yes he was. He taught me a couple of life hacks – especially that you need to start from somewhere. I mean, at that point I was staying at home and the money was basically for my transport, lunch, shopping and some fun times. Also, my mother had coerced me into opening a savings account in a Sacco and so a little portion of my money went there too – I will tell you about the importance of this soon.

After working past a year and getting well acquainted with the organization, I started feeling edgy about my role at work and the amount I was earning. I felt that it wasn’t comparable to my peers, some of whom we were working with, and others in other organizations. You get to figure these things out eventually, like who does what and who earns what, and it can be quite a demotivator at work and in life generally. Especially when you start comparing what they do against what you do; what they have against what you don’t and it doesn’t add up. Or better yet, you start questioning what you do and you start wondering what more you can do so that you can also get there.

And it’s during that struggle to chart my career path that I slowly started to understand that in order for me to be able to put a price tag on myself, I need to have something valuable that I offer – like a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of sorts. And not only that, this valuable skill needs to enable the company or individual that I am working for to derive value from it as well – which eventually leads to generation of income and which in turn could pay up what I’m requesting for when the interviewer on the other side of the table asks, “what is your expected income?” ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ kind of scenario.

I feel like this should be a series already, so we will make it a series and make some sense out of it. Since it’s an experience I am still going through and I am still trying to figure this out and that’s what Kawi Snippets is all about. It’s about experiences and the lessons we’re learning from them. It’s a discussion that involves everyone – employed, self-employed and unemployed.

I am still trying to know how much I am worth based on the work I do and the experience I have gained so far. How do I stick a price tag on myself and what does this number really say about me? How does that number compare to all the other numbers around me – say for instance, if I am to find out my colleague earns more than me and we do the same kind of work, would I feel comfortable and still remain confident about the price tag I placed on myself? Or what if I want to move elsewhere and this number moves with me and it’s what determines my next one? What are some of the factors to look into when coming up with that price tag so that you’re realistic about it?

If you feel like you can contribute to these discussions based on your experience, please reach out. I wish I could also collaborate with an experienced person in the Human Resources or Talent Management field who would like to share their expertise when it comes to answering the question, “what is your expected income?” What kind of feedback do you expect? What are some of the things you look into when determining a potential employees worth? If you are one and you feel touched to share with the rest of us out here, we thank you in advance 🙂

Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great. ~ John D. Rockefeller

Signing Off ~~~ *Kawi*